Was it less than two years ago I wrote up my big list of managerial candidates following the firing of Trey Hillman? (actually, he was fired in the middle of my writing it, so if I once again have this effect on Royals management, so be it) It seems like eons ago. The Yost administration enjoyed a nice honeymoon period as the team improved over the last stretch of 2010, playing at a .433 clip, a huge improvement over the 12-23 start under Trey Hillman. The honeymoon carried over into 2011 when Ned's aggressive offensive led the team to 71 wins, their best season since 2008, which was Trey Hillman's first year.
Yet here we are seventeen games into the 2012 season and the luster is starting to wear off. While only the most diehard Royals fans expected the team to contend this year, for the first time since 2004, there were raised expectations for this club. A .500 season, or close to a .500 season was expected, and at the very least, the unsightly play of sub-.400 baseball appeared to be in our rear-view mirror. And yet they lost. Again, and again, and again.
The losing coupled with some of the mystifying decisions made by Ned Yost have called for some fans to begin calling for a change in the dugout. I think its a fair bet that Dayton will stick with Ned under some rationale that young players need some stability and besides look at all the injuries we suffered! How can anyone win without Perezesence? However, its probably not too early to at least consider who the Royals should be looking to manage this club should Ned be fired some time before Opening Day 2013 (Mission 2013! This time its personal!) Here is a compilation of some possible managerial candidates.
Rick Anderson, Pitching Coach, Minnesota Twins
I don't know why pitching coaches don't get hired as managers more often. Handling pitches is arguably the most important aspect of a managers' job, from when to pull the starter, to reliever usage, to instruction for young pitchers. The Royals number one priority with pitching should be to develop young pitchers that can throw strikes. The Twins have espoused this philosophy for years and Anderson has been a large part of it.
Anderson took over as Twins pitching coach in 2002. Here is where they ranked in the league in walks allowed - 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, before falling off in 2011 to 6th. Sure, the Twins were good at not allowing walks before Anderson took over, but he has continued that tradition, even getting pitchers from other organizations like Carlos Silva, Livan Hernandez and Carl Pavano to improve their BB/IP ratios under his tutelage.
"We just say, 'Make one of the first two pitches a strike,'" Anderson said, "because if they throw ball one, we don't want them thinking, 'Uh-oh. Now I'm already in trouble.'"
And for those of you with a fetish for hiring guys with a Royals connection, he pitched thirteen games for us!
On the downside, he seems wedded to conventional bullpen usage.
"I had somebody tell me that we can save a game in the seventh as well as we can in the ninth," Anderson said. "OK. Well, if our closer saves it in the seventh, who throws the ninth? You’re in helter-skelter. You’ve got three guys down there saying, ‘Well, maybe it’s me.’ Even though you’d like to, we’ve never, ever thought of it."
Bowa is an old school, disciplinarian manager known for his hot temper. As a player he was a terrific defender, despite not being known for his athleticism or hitting prowess. His personifies what Dayton Moore wants the Royals to be.
"Everything now is about stats," Bowa said. "It has completely changed the game. You only get paid now for hitting homeruns and driving in runs. You don't get paid for giving yourself up."....
Bowa said the attitude now is "big deal" if someone advances 38 runners with ground balls the other way or another 12 with sacrifice bunts. Yet, those unselfish acts help teams win.
Bowa compiled a 418-435 record as manager of the Padres and Phillies, but has not managed since 2004. He served as a coach with the Yankees and more recently with the Los Angeles Dodgers under Joe Torre, but retired when Torre retired. He currently serves as an analyst for MLB Network. At age 67, Bowa may past his prime to be considered, but he certainly has the grit necessarily to warrant a mention.
Chino Cadahia, Bench Coach, Kansas City Royals
Chino spent fifteen years in the Braves organization, mostly as a minor league instructor and coordinator. He spent five seasons in Atlanta as a bench coach before taking the same position here this season. The 54-year old Cadahia has been a pitching instructor and minor league manager in the past. Cadahia is Cuban-born and might be able to relate to other Cuban-born players like Brayan Pena and Yuniesky Betancourt, and may even help the Royals recruit Cuban free agents. As a former catcher who was instrumental in the development of Ivan Rodriguez, he might also serve as a good mentor for Salvador Perez.
Not much is publicly known about Cadahia's managerial philosophy, although its a pretty good bet he's cut from the same tree as Ned Yost, in the Bobby Cox School of Managing. Frankly, I see Cadahia as a baseball-lifer - kinda like Bob Schaefer was here for many years - not really a hot managerial candidate teams are looking to hire.
Joey Cora, Bench Coach, Miami Marlins
Cora served as the bench coach for the White Sox from 2006 til last season when he went with Ozzie Guillen to Miami. Prior to that he managed in the minor leagues for the New York Mets. While Cora has served under the fiery Ozzie Guillen, he insists he is the "other side of the coin." Cora is known to be laid-back and amiable. He is still quite young (47) and relates well with players.
"There's got to be pride, got to be a way to play the game that the fans and the organization feel proud of," Cora said. "Making sure that the other teams worry about us. We don't want to worry about them. We want to make them worry about us."
He has been associated with Ozzie Guillen's "small-ball" ways, but its unclear as to whether Cora believes in those same philosophies. Cora interviewed for the Mariners managerial position - which speaks well that Jack Zduriencik was interested in him. But he was a huge fan favorite for the job - so it says something that Zduriencik passed him over despite the popularity of Cora's candidacy. The White Sox also passed on him instead handing the job to a virtual unknown in Robin Ventura.
Tony DeFrancesco, Minor League Manager, Houston Astros
I'll continue to beat this drum although I don't see this guy ever managing in the big leagues. DeFrancesco served as a manager in the Athletics system for sixteen seasons, winning three Pacific Coast League titles and 2003 Minor League Manager of the Year. He's been part of the "Moneyball" organization for over a decade now, overseeing talented young players like Tim Hudson, Barry Zito,Miguel Tejada, Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez. On the downside, his only MLB experience was one season as Oakland's third base coach. His lack of MLB experience as a player or coach could hurt him like it seemingly hurt Trey Hillman.
Its hard to find much about DeFrancesco's managerial philosophies. If he's part of the Athletics organization, one would guess he is at least somewhat sympathetic to sabermetrics. He is currently the manager of the Houston Astros top minor league affiliate.
Being the best man at General Manager Billy Beane's wedding wasn't enough to save Geren from being fired by his friend after four and a half seasons in Oakland with no winning records. Still, his .470 winning percentage isn't awful, and he is of course well-schooled in sabermetrics as a close confidant of Beane. He has been known to read "The Book" and has a laid-back style of managing.
The laid back style has been interpreted by some as being aloof, and Geren has been criticized for being wishy-washy, for not being assertive with his players, for failing to assert himself, for favoring certain players, and was publicly undermined by reliever Brian Fuentes and reliever Huston Street for failing to communicate well.
"For me personally, he was my least favorite person I have ever encountered in sports from age 6 to 27. I am very thankful to be in a place where I can trust my manager."
Chip Hale, Bench Coach, Oakland Athletics
Hale is a former gritty journeyman utility infielder who has both minor league managerial experience and MLB coaching experience. He began managing in the minors in 2000 and was very successful, leading his club to the best record in the league three times over the next seven seasons. He also handled a number of talented young players like Brandon Webb, Scott Hairston, Jose Valverde, Conor Jackson, and Carlos Quentin.
He spent 2007-2009 as the Diamondbacks third-base coach, serving under former manager Bob Melvin.
"Innovative and creative are two words that I would use to describe... Chip. That's what impressed me during the interview process...."
"Chip learned from Tom Kelly in Minnesota, where everything is about fundamentals, fundamentals and fundamentals,"
-Mets Manager, Jerry Manuel
Hale, a former bench player himself, seems to advocate using his bench as much as possible.
There's a saying, 'Bench players are only as good as the amount they play.' Everybody is going to have a chance to get their work, get their at bats. At any level, there are three, four, maybe five 'priority guys' on the club, and the rest of the guys the organization says, "work 'em in.' I played with a lot of guys in 'A' ball who weren't 'priority guys' who had long Major League careers. You give them opportunity, and believe me, there's enough opportunity, these get guys in, they get at bats, plus pinch hitting and double switches and they can improve and really have a chance to show their stuff.
Hale is now the bench coach for the Oakland Athletics. He interviewed for the Mets managerial job before it was handed to Terry Collins, and the Blue Jays managerial job before it was given to John Farrell.
Hargrove unexpectedly retired from the Mariners mid-season in 2007, but there have been rumors he wants to return to managing, having spent summers managing the college summer team in Liberal, Kansas. Hargrove is a very experienced manager with over a thousand wins as a MLB manager. He took a bad Indians club and helped steer them towards five consecutive division titles and two American League pennants. He also took over a 99-loss Mariners ballclub and guided them towards improvement in all three seasons in Seattle.
On the downside, he never won more than 74 games in four seasons in Baltimore. While his Cleveland teams tended to outperform their pythag, his Baltimore and Seattle teams usually underperformed. He has also been allegedly undermined in two jobs - in Cleveland some feel hitting coach Charlie Manuel was able to ouster Hargrove from his job, while in Seattle, assistant coach Dan Rohn was fired for undermining Hargrove.
He has also been criticized for failing to take advantage of platoon splits and not handling young players particularly well. Hargrove was criticized for his handling of young pitchers earlier in his career, but later on became a more conservative manager when it came to pitch counts.
Hargrove believes – and uses – pitch counts on a case-by-case basis. When it comes to the magic number, 100 pitches, Hargrove said, "That’s fine early in the season, coming out of spring training, but by midseason through the end of the year, it should be 120 to 125 pitches for a guy with a healthy arm.
"But you can’t generalize. If a guy has a history of injuries, you’re opening him up to more injury by throwing that much."
Hargrove has been willing to go with a "closer by committee"and multiple innings for his closer.
Grover does too many other things wrong to be on this list as just himself, but this one aspect of in-game management, he’s done exceptionally well at, and he seems to be getting better by the week. He’s using J.J. Putz for multi-inning saves, letting George Sherrill face right-handers (sometimes, anyways), giving high leverage innings to Eric O’Flaherty and not sticking with struggling veterans like Chris Reitsma. Yesterday, he even used J.J. Putz in the 9th inning of a tie game at home, realizing there was no point in saving his closer for a save situation that could not happen. Bob Melvin used to drive us insane with his bullpen usage, and while I don’t think I’m ever going to be much of a Mike Hargrove fan, I’ll gladly stand and applaud the way he’s used his relievers this year. The M’s bullpen is, by far, the strength of the team, and Hargrove has leveraged this strength into a lot of wins
-Dave Cameron, USS Mariner
He also has literally written the book on how to hit, bunt, and slide. FUNDAMENTALS! Hargrove currently serves as a special adviser to the Indians.
Jason Kendall, Catching Instructor, Kansas City Royals
Whoa, rewind yourself. Jason Kendall? But he has no managing or coaching experience! True, but that didn't stop the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox in their new managerial hires. We know the Royals love Kendall's grit and leadership skills. Although he doesn't appear to be with the organization in any official capacity, he has been instructing Royals catchers and other players in spring training. And like Jake Taylor moved from behind the plate to manage the Indians in Major League II, Jason Kendall could spark this team with his leadership with similar hilarious results.
Torey Lovullo, First Base Coach, Toronto Blue Jays
Lovullo has been a highly touted minor league manager for years, interviewing in the past for the head jobs in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. He was a minor league manager in the Indians organization for eight years (2001-2009), twice winning Minor League Manager of the Year. He served in the Boston organization for one season before joining John Farrell's staff in Toronto, serving as first base coach. He has been known as a players' coach, a manager who communicates well with young players and elicits enthusiastic praise from his team.
"I love playing for him. I’ve played for Torey the last two years. He has a way of making young players feel confident."
Lovullo is an adamant believer in set lineups.
"I want to get the starting lineup set as soon as possible and stick to it," said Lovullo. "There's nothing better than a player knowing he's going to be hitting leadoff and playing center field every day when he walks in the locker room."
He's also a big believer in set roles in the pen.
"The biggest challenge to an AL manager is knowing how to run a bullpen," Lovullo said. "You try and put guys in a role in which they are comfortable."
"I think the biggest challenge of an American League manager is to figure out how to manage the bullpen. It starts with managing the workload so the pen isn't tired by the end of the season. I think it's about getting a closer and working backward."
Mike Maddux, Pitching Coach, Texas Rangers
Mike, the older brother of future Hall of Famer Greg, has been Rangers pitching coach since 2008, helping vault them into the top of the league in fewest runs allowed. Prior to joining the Rangers, the club was dead last in runs allowed, but every year since then have been in the top five in the league. Prior to joining the Rangers, Maddux served in Milwaukee where he helped the Brewers staff post the second best runs allowed mark in the league in 2008. He was interviewed by the Cubs last winter for their managerial position.
The fact Theo Epstein interviewed him suggests he is not totally averse to sabermetrics. On stats, he had this to say:
"It's art, you can make some things out of them," he said. "But there's a lot of real stuff to them also. Good numbers don't lie. Bad numbers can be a little deceptive. You use all the information you can, but when it comes down to it, you gotta trust yourself, trust your players and try to put your players in positions where they can succeed."
On how he would handle a clubhouse:
"You really have to hold your players accountable. You send the message, and you have to make sure they adhere to the ground rules. We're not out there cracking the whip — 'You have to walk this way, talk this way.' But you post your guard rails and let your guys go within the guard rails, man. As long as we're going forward and we're not going out of bounds, we're OK."
Pitching coaches don't often seem to be considered as managers for whatever reason. They have a mixed bag with Roger Craig, Buck Rodgers, Jeff Torborg, Bob Lemon, and Bud Black having some success, while Larry Rothschild, Ray Miller, Joe Kerrigan, and Phil Regan were pretty terrible. With good pitching having eluded this franchise for so long, and with a wave of good young pitching prospects coming up, wouldn't having a pitching-minded manager make some sense?
Dave Martinez, Bench Coach, Tampa Bay Rays
Dave Martinez was a gritty journeyman bench player for several years, mostly in the National League. He has been the Rays bench coach since 2007 under manager Joe Maddon. I consider Maddon to be one of the best managers in the game and in the dugout I constantly see him talking to Martinez. If Martinez is absorbing half of what Maddon is saying, he's already got a leg up on the last few managers we've had here.
He's very blunt and good with the players when we mess up. He takes care of a lot of stuff I don't have to take care of there. And the players have a lot of trust and faith in him based on his experience as a major league player as well as how he handles them as a coach.
- Joe Maddon
"I suggest when maybe to pinch-run, when we might want to pinch-hit due to the matchup. I suggest when to bunt, when not to bunt. He lets me do a lot. … Every game I'm a student of the game and I've always been that way, even when I played. To me, Joe is probably one of the best – if not the best – teacher I've been around as far as knowing everything about the game. Not just the game, but statistics, using the computer. We talk. I listen. I'll pick his brain. Now it's to the point where I'm on the same page every day."
- Dave Martinez
Martinez has very little input on the pitching staff however, and with no managerial experience, has pretty much no experience handling pitching.
Terry Pendleton, First Base Coach, Atlanta Braves
Pendleton has been the Braves hitting coach since 2001, drawing praise for his work with young hitters and is considered by many to be the heir apparent to Bobby Cox. Accordingly, he may be a long shot to come back to Kansas City (he is an ex-Royal!). He is known as a funny and likeable character, and well-liked by the media.
On the downside, Pendleton has been criticized for the lack of success by young hitters like Jeff Franceour and Kelly Johnson. The slow start by many Braves hitters this year has led to discussion that perhaps Pendleton should be relieved of his duties.
Looking at these very basic numbers, a valid conclusion is that Terry Pendleton knows what to do with guys who can slug, a la the Sheffields, Andruws, LaRoches and Francoeurs. But given a lineup full of hitters who don't necessarily have the same raw power as prior years as well as an aging and creaky Chipper Jones, and it appears that TP can't adapt to optimize his dealt hand....
But let's not ignore the fact that the Braves are doing an outstanding job at getting men on base, but the bigger problem is the simple fact that not enough of them are coming home
Here is an analysis of his impact as a hitting instructor. The Braves plate discipline has improved recently, although that may have more to do with a difference in philosophy between current GM Frank Wren and former GM John Schuerholz. Pendleton wasn't a particularly patient hitter in his day, but that does not mean he will or will not preach plate discipline as a hitting coach. He has remarked at how impressed he is at Jason Heyward's plate discipline, suggesting he at least seems some value in it. Pendleton was re-assigned last year from hitting coach to first base coach.
Jaime Quirk, Bench Coach, Chicago Cubs
Jaime Quirk is a former player and bench coach for the Royals, and even got to manage the team for eight games in 1998 while Tony Muser was serving a suspension. He was known for being a players' coach, the "good cop" to Muser's "bad cop" demeanor.
I would just try to be myself. I don't want to be the kind of manager - and I'm saying this, but I never managed, so who knows if you'd do it or not when the bottom line came - but I would want to be a player's manager. That's a guy who communicates and talks and can listen and chew up a behind when he needs to. To me, that's a player's manager. A player's manager is someone who a player would actually feel comfortable talking to.
In 2001, he was surprisingly fired, with many speculating that Muser had felt Quirk was undermining him with the players.
Quirk has interviewed in the past to be manager of the Athletics, Rockies and Blue Jays, but was passed over every time. He has served as a bench coach for a number of years for the Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies, and Houston Astros before joining the Chicago Cubs. Quirk has made it no secret that he would love to manage someday and that Kansas City would be his number one choice.
In a perfect world, yes, I would love to be manager of the Royals. I would absolutely love it. But there are no guarantees I will ever get the job.
Willie Randolph, Former Manager, New York Mets
Could Randolph, who tormented Royals fans in the 1970s be in Royal blue? Willie has managerial experience as the head of the New York Mets for four seasons. While many remember him for his epic collapses in 2007 and 2008, we forget that he led the Mets to 97 wins and the NLCS in 2006, and has an overall winning percentage of .544, far better than the Mets have experienced since dismissing him.
Some credit Randolph's even-keel manner as stoicism, while other decry it as a lack of passion. Willie talks about "small ball", but many seemed to feel he did not bunt or steal enough, perhaps because of his personnel. This led to accusations of him of being an "American League manager.". He is known for having a quick hook to the pen, although he rejects having specific roles for relievers, insisting they be ready for all situations.
Willie was criticized however failing to be a fiery manager who inspired his club. He was also accused of sticking too long with veterans and for not handling young players like Lastings Milledge and Carlos Gomez very well.
You can’t make mistakes when you’re trying to win a championship. So it’s too much to really expect a young player to have all that mastered. Some organizations can be patient with that, some organizations say, you know what? No, we can’t afford to go with a guy at this point in time. He needs more seasoning.
-Willie Randolph, on Carlos Gomez
Willie also had issues with the New York media, with some interpreting his demeanor as aloof. He even went so far to suggest he was getting heat from the media because of his skin color. Randolph's stock as a manager seems to have fallen dramatically, going from a darling on the Yankees bench to being considered a failure with the Mets, to being unable to land even an assistant coaching gig this year.
Scott Ullger, Bench Coach, Minnesota Twins
Ullger is in his seventeenth season on the Twins staff, serving under managers Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire. Prior to that he spent seven seasons managing in the minor leagues, being named 1990 Minor League Manager of the Year. Gardenhire has been known for delegating a lot of roles to this coaching staff, so Ullger should be used to many of the tasks and responsibilities a manger must take.
Ullger is not a big fan of Earl Weaver-style baseball.
The Twins rank near the bottom in home runs because hitting instructor Scott Ullger tells his young players not to try to hit the long ball. Ullger thinks urging young players to swing for the fences invites all sorts of problems--overswinging, too many strikeouts, low averages and popups. The team has few natural power hitters on the roster, so Ullger emphasizes Hitting 101--using the whole field and taking pitches where they're pitched. Ullger's philosophy is that if a batter hits the ball the opposite way, he'll eventually force the pitcher to come inside with a pitch that can be pulled. Trying to pull pitches on the outside of the plate leads only to weak grounders to short.
Being a disciple of Gardenhire's, Ullger likely also believes in the same small-ball philosophy that has embodied the Twins for the last decade.
Don Wakamatsu, Bench Coach, Toronto Blue Jays, Former Manager, Seattle Mariners
Wakamatsu posted a .464 winning percentage in less than two seasons with Seattle. He won 85 games in his only full season but was fired with two months to go in his second season. He seems open to using statistical analysis, having worked in Oakland under Billy Beane, and in Seattle under Jack Zduriencik.
DL: What role is statistical analysis playing in your player-acquisition discussions?
DW: Again, for me, going through a year in Oakland was a tremendous benefit. And not that we didn't use it in Texas-Buck [Showalter] looked at just about every stat that there was. As far as being detailed and organized, we looked at a lot of stuff. But then, to go over to Oakland, and not that they're the only ones in baseball to use it, but it gave me a different look of how to interpret it and maybe what to use and what not to use. And that carried over. One of the biggest parts of our organization, initially, when Jack was hired, was the addition of [special assistant to the GM] Tony Blengino and creating a department where we have as many resources as just about anybody in baseball. The rest is a job of deciphering. I think that you look at statistical analysis two different ways. One is that it can benefit on-field player development, and the other is that it can help you in acquiring talent. I think there is usefulness in both of those. From the field side of it, there can be paralysis by analysis. But I'm the type of guy that would like to look at everything that comes my way, anything that they can bring to my attention, so I do have an open door in that aspect. It's my job to decipher how much benefit that's going to give our baseball club.
Am I a total stats guy? No. But I always welcome the addition of as much information as possible to help make decisions. There are two ways of looking at sabermetrics. The first is player procurement, where you crunch the numbers of who this guy really is and find out who is valuable and why. On the other hand, you use the numbers for lineups, matchups or tendencies or zone ratings, whatever you choose to look at. I think at times you can get boggled with paralysis by analysis, but again, I cherish as much information as I can get. The thing about statistical data, I mean, if you can come up with something that guarantees what's going to happen, we'd all be rich men. [Laughs] None of it is a guarantee. So for immediate impact and making decision in a ballgame, it's not always as prevalent. For matchups and tendencies of positioning players on defense, it's critical, and also for matchups on certain pitches to certain hitters in zones. Those things matter more than a guy being 6-for-7 on a guy. The thing with statistical data is you have to be abreast of it because you'll get chewed up if you don't. Everybody has access to that data. In the press conference after the game, you're going to be asked stuff like, 'Did you know that a guy was hitting .667 off that pitcher?' And you better know it.
Frank White, Former Minor League Manager, Kansas City Royals; Former First Base Coach, Boston Red Sox
Frank has burned his bridges. He has as good a chance of being Royals manager as Dayton Moore has becoming SABR President.
Other potential candidates:
Sandy Alomar, Jr., Bench Coach, Cleveland Indians - interviewed for the Cubs and Red Sox managerial positions last winter, interviewed with the Jays the previous winter; is in his fourth season on the Indians staff; previously served as a Mets catching instructor; played 18 years in the Majors as a catcher.
Terry Francona, Former Phillies, Red Sox Manager - Francona won two championships as Red Sox manager before being dismissed after a late-season collapse last season. He will no doubt be the hottest free agent manager available, and is unlikely to even consider managing Kansas City.
Ryne Sandberg, Minor League Manager, Philadelphia Phillies - named 2011 Minor League Manager of the Year, spent four seasons managing in the Cubs organization before moving on to the Phillies organization last year, Hall of Fame second baseman for the Cubs
Joel Skinner, Minor League Manager, Chicago White Sox – 1998 Minor League Manager of the Year; managed the Indians for 76 games; prefers "aggressive" style on the bases, was bench coach in Oakland last year.
Chris Speier, Bench Coach, Cincinnati Reds - was a coach on the 2001 Championship Diamondbacks club, has spent the last five years with the Reds, managing two games in Dusty Baker's absence.
Alan Trammell, Former Manager, Detroit Tigers – just a .383 winning percentage in three seasons in Detroit, albeit with terrible talent; is currently bench coach for the Diamondbacks.
Dusty Wathan, Minor League Manager, Philadelphia Phillies – a long-shot, but someone to keep on the radar; just 38 years old; former Royal and son of former Royals player/manager John Wathan; is in his fifth season with the Phillies and has a connection to Special Adviser Mike Arbuckle.